He dwells among us: So much to be thankful for

Our Eucharistic Congress reminds us to be thankful for the past and hopeful for the future

Even three weeks after our Eucharistic Congress, I continue to be amazed by the number of people who tell me of how their lives were touched, renewed, and even transformed the weekend of Sept. 13-14.

But as well organized as our Congress was, these experiences were the result of the encounter with the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, “the source and summit” of our entire life and that of the Church. How I pray that we should come away from every celebration of the Eucharist, from every Mass, so transformed and enthusiastic!

We came together as a diocese to offer thanksgiving, the very meaning of the word “Eucharist,” for our many blessings. We came away with a new enthusiasm for our mission to go out and to live the Gospel and to be a eucharistic people—to be the face and hands of Christ.

There is so much to be thankful for and so many to thank who helped make our Eucharistic Congress such a resounding success. I am particularly grateful for the many volunteers who were so eucharistic in the selfless offering of themselves so that others might be able to more fully experience such a wonderful celebration. I am so blessed to be the bishop of this wonderful diocese and I thank all of you who contributed so much to the success of the Jubilee anniversary.

But our celebration is far from over—it is just beginning. Just as the dismissal at the end of Mass is not the end of our Eucharistic celebration, but a new starting point in our mission to go out into the world and to live and share the Gospel, so, too, our Eucharistic Congress represents a new starting point for us as a diocese as we look to the future.

Especially during this Year of Celebration, it is my heartfelt prayer for everyone that we continue to grow in our eucharistic faith, to grow in awareness of the mystery celebrated in each and every Mass and its relationship to our daily life. I pray that, to the degree you are able, there will be an increased desire to make visits to the Blessed Sacrament during the course of the week, for holy hours of prayer, for eucharistic adoration, and for daily Mass.

Because our love for the Eucharist should lead us to a greater appreciation for the sacrament of reconciliation, I pray there will be more frequent recourse to this much neglected sacrament. Surrounded as we are by a culture that tends to eliminate the sense of sin, the love for the Eucharist should naturally cause us to want to encounter our merciful and loving Lord in the confessional. How grateful I am to all our priests and those from St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Ala., who collectively heard a total of 136 hours of confessions! How I truly hope that more people will experience the healing grace of Christ in this sacrament.

Just as the Eucharist gives us impulse to commit ourselves to building a more just society, so, too, it gives us impulse to renew our efforts in building up the local Church of East Tennessee. Because we are growing, this will include new churches and facilities.

And I have heard from many that the time has come for a new cathedral church, which is truly a statement about how we as Catholics in our eucharistic faith, dwell in East Tennessee. But knowing that the Lord is guiding us, we look to the future with confidence as we commit ourselves to seeking God’s will.

Having inaugurated our Silver Jubilee anniversary with our Eucharistic Congress, we will officially conclude our Year of Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, with an outdoor Mass at Smokies Stadium in Kodak, Tenn., and a barbeque picnic. At the stadium, located immediately off of Interstate 40 and exit 407, we will bring this Year of Celebration to a fitting conclusion by thanking our Eucharistic Lord for all his blessings.

I look forward to sharing more on this in the coming months.

Indeed, we have much to be thankful for.